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“Barn Find” Shelby KR Convertibles in Iowa Cornfield
Is This Heaven? No, It’s Iowa: The Klodt family’s field of dreams of highly desirable and rare Mustangs
There are barn finds, and then there are barn finds. The cars you see in this story don’t live up to the true “barn find” label, wherein a rare, dusty machine is unearthed from its hidden cocoon to the surprise and delight of the automotive archeologists who dug it out. Rather, the Klodt family’s collection of four G.T. 500KR convertibles and more luscious Mustangs has always been known to a select few people (though the KRs are kept in a legitimate Amish barn in the middle of an Iowa cornfield, so the label kind of fits).
A tip and several grainy cellphone photos from a mutual friend led us to the Klodt farm in southeast Iowa—we’re not divulging the location for the family’s privacy—where your author stopped to check it out on a cross-country road trip. We met Brad Klodt at one of the storage buildings across the street from his farm, fresh off his farm-tending duties, for a friendly mauling from his two “guard dogs” then a tour of the cars and buildings.
Explaining his and his father Clarence’s history with Mustangs, Brad says, “At 16, I wanted a 1969 or 1970 Road Runner, but my dad wouldn’t have anything to do with that, so he found a 1973 Mach 1 at a dealership and bought it. It was a 2V Cleveland car with 51,000 miles on it. I still have the car today, with only 75,000 total miles.”
By the time he graduated high school in 1979, Brad wanted another Mustang and bought a 1965 hardtop with a 289 and three-speed stick. Eventually that car got a 9-inch, a built 289 with a tunnel ram, and a few dates with the dragstrip, at which point it “led to my dad dragging home a few cars of his own,” says Brad.
At this point Clarence Klodt chimed in, “Well, he had that Mach 1 and 1965 coupe, and I thought, gosh, we better have a convertible. So we located one about 50 miles from here, and it kind of went to the bad from there on.”
The Mustang restoration market in the late 1970s and early 1980s was nothing like what it is today. The Klodts had a hard time finding all the parts they needed, so they started buying parts cars to fill the void. That led to the creation of Klodt Mustangs, a restoration shop that employed six people at one point and did everything from suspension work and bolt-ons to full ground-up rotisserie restorations. Brad says, “When it was all said and done, we branched out away from Mustangs but stayed with Fords. We had Torinos, Cougars, Montegos, etcetera. We had probably 420 to 430 parts cars. Then we started selling parts to help keep our addiction going. We shipped parts overseas, to Mexico and Canada. We shipped cars to Australia and Germany and did a restoration that the gal picked up and drove home to Alaska.”
The restoration business eventually closed down to concentrate on the farm, but the Klodts still have buildings full of parts and a wrecking yard full of those old parts cars out in the Back 40. Klodt Mustangs used to advertise in Mustang Monthly decades ago when the shop was still running, but obviously no longer does, and they occasionally still sell parts to people industrious enough to track them down. So if you’re reading this and really want to find them, you probably can if you try hard enough.
But this story is not about the Klodts’ parts. No, our purpose here is to show their amazing Mustangs and incredibly cool, 1800s-era Amish barn. You might have the same thought we did: “Maybe I should have gotten into farming . . .”
That red nose poking out of this circa-1890 Amish barn (relocated to the Klodts’ property several years ago) is a 1968 G.T. 500KR convertible, one of three KR ragtops stored in the barn. It was a California car that the Klodts were told was owned by actor Richard Daley (when they removed the driver’s seat they found a parking stub to a Hollywood valet lot). The car ended up in Kansas City. “The owner had it for a year before deciding he was a Chevy man,” so he asked the Klodts if they wanted to buy it. It has 46,000 miles on it and, as Brad Klodt says, “was an easy car to restore. It was so solid we just cleaned it up and detailed it.”
On the way to buy another KR convertible that was eventually sold out from them, they came upon the white one. After a bidding war it became a barn dweller behind the red KR. Dig that cool restored Ford 641 Workmaster tractor.
Brad and Clarence Klodt were at a car show 100 miles from home when they got a line on a Shelby for sale in Des Moines. The seller said that he had a guy interested in it but he didn’t have the money, and asked the Klodts if they could appraise it for him since he didn’t really know what the car was worth. The first buyer never could gather enough money, and the Klodts stayed on the seller until he finally let them buy it. The blue KR was originally bought new by a young kid who got into trouble (we imagine street racing) so his parents made him sell it. A relative bought the car for a dollar a mile, and it only had 1,628 miles on it at the time—wouldn’t it be nice to buy a 1,600-mile G.T. 500KR convertible for $1,628 today?! Brad tells us when they got it, “It was in pretty good shape. We put a left-hand floorpan in it from the convertible leaking, but that’s all we had to do to it.”
Clarence (left) and Brad (right) pulled their 1970 Boss 302 out of another garage so we could photograph it. Brad says, “I bought it in 1981 from a gentleman an hour away, Bob Waters. He was the Boss 302 man in this part of the country. Had several Bosses and a Cougar Eliminator with a Boss motor. The car was originally Wimbledon White. A previous owner had bought it from guy in Quincy, Illinois, and he had it wound too tight one day and the engine grenaded. When we got it, the crank was in three pieces. It’s a relatively rust-free car, so we put a Shaker on it and had a local body shop paint it in 1982. That’s a 33-year-old lacquer job. I never really have driven it much.”
Yet another, larger building houses more Mustangs and Fords in various stages of construction. It used to house the Klodt Mustangs restoration shop.
This poor old soul is in reality a 1964 Galaxie R-code car with a Low-Riser 427 and four-speed, originally Gunmetal Gray with a white bucket seat interior (with console) and factory 4.11:1 gears, but on an open differential—go figure. Brad says, “4.11 gears with no posi . . . It’s weird and makes no sense. But a guy I know worked for the dealer when the 427 Galaxies came out, and he said they destroyed the rearends all the time, so maybe that’s why they went with the open rearend on this car.” They found it in a Booneville, Missouri, Mustang salvage lot and bought it for $1,200 (damn it!). It had been hit in the rear so they’ve done all the bodywork and blasted and painted the frame, but “that’s as far as we got,” says Brad. “It’ll be a cool car if we ever get it done, and it’s really not that far from done.”
The Klodts’ very first KR was this one. They bought it from a guy in London, Iowa, who had acquired it from the original owner in New York. It has 45,000 original miles and was Candy Apple Red with a black interior, but it’s as rough as a cobb. Brad says, “It lived on the coast, so the salt air did bad, bad things to the body. It was so rusty that when we jacked it up, put it on jackstands, and pulled the engine, the car basically broke in two, separating at the firewall. That made it a lot easier to get the engine out though!” The KR had all its service records since new. Brad says, “The owner always took it to a Ford dealership for service, and they put new plugs in it every year. They charged her for a full set of eight plugs every time, but when we tore it apart, on the left bank back by the brake booster, the rear plug was the original one.” He continues, “It was in such bad shape that we just shoved it back in the corner and went looking for a 1968 convertible parts car.” That hunt for the parts car is what led them to the white KR.
The fastback is a Shelby clone they bought at a Mecum auction in Des Moines and is a solid C-code 289 four-speed car that Brad says is fun to drive. “You can eat off the floorpans” it is so clean. The 1964 1/2 convertible was a rolling chassis from a salvage yard. Originally a 260/automatic Mustang, it served as the restoration shop’s shipping department for years, piled high with boxes. They hired a 19-year-old guy, also named Brad, who turned out to be a master at structural work. He did the bulk of the work to this car. He was killed in a motorcycle wreck, and Brad Klodt drove the guy’s mother and two of his brothers in this car to the cemetery.
“We bought the Silver Pewter Metallic Boss 351 in 1986 from a fella we’ve known off and on from Mustang shows. He didn’t want to sell it, but his wife was expecting, so we gave him $5,800 for it. It has 27,000 original miles and we have all the history. It spent most of its life in the Waterloo, Iowa, area and had three previous owners before the guy I bought it from,” Brad says. “To tell you how small a world it is, a local vet 12 miles from here that was a buddy, he was from Waterloo and his wife used to date one of the guys that owned the car.” It had been broadsided once, so the Klodts put an outer rocker panel on it and put it on a frame machine. The rest is mostly original, but someone installed 4.30 gears and a Detroit Locker. Brad took it to the eighth-mile dragstrip in Eddyville and ran a traction-limited 8.8-second e.t. Clarence pipes up, “He didn’t tell me about that though.”
The yellow Boss 302 has an appropriate home.
Clarence is as much about pedal cars and tractors as he is Mustangs.
Next door to where the Boss 302 is parked are racks and racks of Mustang parts.
Back in the Amish barn, which we could spend hours in, were several full-sized and fully restored tractors, including these John Deeres.
“These cars don’t get driven much anymore. Dead batteries and flat tires.”